Hello Donald Trump, goodbye financial calm.
For better or for worse, a victory by Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election would have meant more of the same in economy and financial markets. Mr. Trump's surprise win leads us into four years of uncertainty. We know what he said he'd do – now we wait to see if he follows through. Here are five things you need to know about your personal finances as we head toward a Trump presidency.
1.) The loonie is going to be a problem
The loonie was way down in the aftermath of the U.S. election, which is not a good sign for the future. Mr. Trump's win seems, initially at least, to be sending a "sell Canada" message to financial markets. This may be a result of Mr. Trump's anti-free trade stance, which would be negative for the Canadian economy.
This is the time of year when snowbirds head south, and they'll be closely watching the dollar. Foreign exchange rates are brutally hard to predict, but it may make sense to buy U.S. dollars now to avoid further declines in the loonie. Oil prices have weakened lately, and that's also bad for our currency.
2.) The stock market is a drama king/queen
Ultimately, stock prices are a reflection of where investors believe corporate profits are heading. But in the short term, there's an almost infantile level of emotion in the way the markets react to political events like Mr. Trump's win. There were indications on Tuesday night that the Dow Jones industrial average could open with a loss of more than 750 points on Wednesday morning. By the actual opening, the Dow was down just 10 or so points.
You'll see more of this extreme volatility as Trump sets his policy priorities in the months ahead. Get used to it and start priming yourself to buy for the long term on any severe dips. There's some concern that Mr. Trump's anti-free trade stance will be bad for the U.S. economy, but he must understand that he will be judged by the performance of the economy and job creation.
3.) Your portfolio is fine
Uncertain times are bullish for market strategists, gurus, pundits and such who want to build a brand by offering clarity about what's coming in financial markets. They tell you they know the stocks to buy to profit from a Trump presidency, which sectors and currencies will do well and which economies will prosper.
Ignore it all. Do not remake a portfolio that was sensibly diversified using bonds and Canadian, U.S. and international stocks. The bonds will protect you if the economy tanks or stocks crash, and the global stocks will ensure you have reasonable exposure to what's working in stock markets around the world. We don't really know how a Trump presidency will unfold – why tilt a portfolio on pure speculation?
4.) Interest rates will likely stay low for longer
Prior to the election, there was growing speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve would raise rates just a bit in December because of signs of growing strength in the U.S. economy. Rising U.S. rates could put some upward pressure on the interest rate on Canadian bonds, and possibly mortgage rates as well.
But the election win by Mr. Trump may delay the rate increase as the U.S. Federal Reserve waits to see how the new president's economic policies play out. It's quite possible there will be no rate increase before year's end and possibly not in early 2017 or even later than that. This is good news for bonds and dividend stocks in sectors like utilities and pipelines. They all tend to weaken when rates rise.
5.) There's a new way for Canadians to save money
The Trump victory might just be the best thing to happen to the Canadian tourism industry in decades. Choosing not to spend your vacation dollars in the United States is a way to demonstrate your unhappiness at the election result, and save a whackload of money.
A U.S. dollar cost about $1.36 Canadian on Wednesday morning, which is a monstrously large surcharge for visiting American cities. Find somewhere in Canada you've never been, or check out Mexico. Along with the loonie, the peso's getting pounded.